Mare Island Night Photography: Revisiting an Old Haunt

The Nocturnes hosted a bi-annual night photography meetup last weekend on Mare Island. These events include a daytime tour of the historic architecture, followed by sharing portfolios in the museum, eating pizza, and then night photography.

The 5 images I shot are below with brief commentary and technical info:

I was walking around at sunset, and saw the tic-tac-toe game painted on the window. After a few framing experiments to play with the reflections, I found a composition that worked.

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm lens at 19mm, 5 seconds at f/9.0, ISO 200.

The plant growing on the side of the building caught my eye. The texture of the rollup door, interplay between red/green/orange, American flag, and smokestack in the background were all factored into the composition. I was hoping for a car to drive through the image, but no luck on a quiet Saturday night.

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm lens at 19mm, 5 shots stacked for star trails, each was 2 minutes at f/11, ISO 200.

The steel cables with vines growing on them led me to this area with the intense cactus plant. I typically don’t shoot verticals but this image really benefits from the layers of ground, plants, building, and sky.

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm lens at 14mm, 5 shots stacked for star trails, each was 3 minutes at f/11, ISO 100.

This area is where the aliens repair their spacecraft.

Actually, this is a paint drying area next to Jeffco Painting & Coating. I will likely do more post-processing on this image to remove the tripod shadow and perhaps bring up more detail in the sky. Although I do like how the dark sky makes the drying area pop.

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm lens at 21mm, 9 shots stacked for star trails, each was 2 minutes at f/11, ISO 100.

A lonely break area next to the Mare Island dry docks where 2 ships were actively being worked on. I was questioned by security when making this image, who were concerned about surveillance of Federal property. After hearing I was part of a Nocturnes event, they left me alone.

Nikon D810 with 14-24mm lens at 14mm, 40 seconds at f/11, ISO 200.


Abandoned Nevada Drive-In Movie Theater 360 Night Panoramas

Stand under the movie screen and gaze at the stars at the abandoned Sage Crest drive-in theater in Yerington, Nevada. These 360 night panoramas were shot in 2013.

Technical Details:


Road Runner's Retreat: Abandoned Route 66 Full Moon 360 Panoramas

These 360 night panoramas of the Road Runner’s Retreat were shot back in 2015. This abandoned Route 66 restaurant and gas station was apparently built in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, and is located just west of the Mojave Desert ghost town of Chambless. The vintage neon sign and roadrunner mural are fantastic. A recommended visit if you’re exploring this part of the desert along 66. Right down the road from Roy’s in Amboy, which is another great photography location.

Technical Details:


Mare Island Night Photography: Composition Experiments

Last weekend I attended a bi-annual night photography meetup hosted by The Nocturnes on Mare Island. These events are a great way to learn more about the history of Mare Island, meet other night photographers, and go shooting without being hassled by security. There's also pizza.

I was in a headspace where doing something different with my compositions sounded fun. The results are below, with some brief commentary and technical info:

Every time I walk by this alleyway at a Nocturnes event, George Loo and Andy Frazer are there. Instead of shooting from the entrance to the alleyway, I walked a little bit further down. The simple composition still maintains the vanishing point from shooting from the entrance. I was happy with the interplay between the stripes on the pavement and the light from the windows.
[Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens at 15mm. 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 200].

The box van and Brazil-esque building vents caught my eye. I was happy with the off-kilter near-far composition, but the shot needed something extra. So I waited for a couple of cars and trucks to drive through. Surprisingly, the orange light on the building was not overwhelming, and a warm yellow vs. cool cyan color balance did not require much adjustment. 
[Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens at 20mm. 30 seconds at f/16, ISO 200].

If you've photographed Mare Island before, you'll recognize this building. I shot almost straight down to get this perspective of the parking lot lines layered over the building reflection in a puddle. There was strong light from the building behind me, so the tripod shadows needed to be removed in post. Again, the yellow vs. cyan color palette is integral to the image, as there was no moonlight.
[Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens at 18mm. 3 minutes at f/14, ISO 400].

The forklift up on the block amused me, so I walked around the area trying to find an interesting composition. A six shot stack was taken for a 15 minute exposure. The images were processed twice in Lightroom - once for the foreground, and at +2.00 EV for the sky. I'm always amazed at how much detail I can bring up from the shadows with the D750.
[Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens at 19mm. 2.5 minutes at f/16, ISO 100].

I pulled the camera off the tripod to see how this reflection shot would look, and noticed some lens flare playing across the water. I shot a few frames of this composition at different focus settings, to make sure everything was sharp. I tried rotating the reflection shots 180º in post, but prefer the way I shot them. Another fun night out at Mare Island!
[Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens at 19mm. 2 minutes at f/16, ISO 200]. 


Joshua Tree Cholla Cactus Garden at Night

The Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to view a dense grove of cacti. The 1/4 mile hike is right off Pinto Basin Road in the southern end of the park. David and I visited the garden under an almost full moon, and were the only ones there. I setup my tripod to take a panorama next to some cholla that were quite tall. The anthropomorphic cacti swayed in the wind under the moonlight.

Click below to view 3 night panoramas from the Cholla Cactus Garden.

Technical Details: Nikon D750 with Samyang 12mm fisheye lens, Sirui N-2204X carbon fiber tripod, Nodal Ninja R1 panohead. 6 shots around at an angle, and 1 down shot (nadir). Processed in Lightroom, stitched in PTGui Pro, output in krpano.


Mare Island Cranes Full Moon 360 Panorama

A 360 night panorama of cranes in front of the dry dock at Mare Island Naval Shipyard

A 360 night panorama of cranes in front of the dry dock at Mare Island Naval Shipyard

At last night's Nocturnes full moon alumni event on Mare Island, two large cranes were positioned in front of the dry dock. Click the image above to see the interactive 360 panorama shot in the historic core area of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard.


In Memory of Steve Harper: An hour at Steve's Rock, Olmsted Point, Yosemite

Steve’s Rock, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1981

Steve’s Rock, Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1981

The reason I have been honored by my students naming this magnificent boulder "Steve's Rock" is because they knew how many times I photographed it, and how many times near the end of the exposure of eighteen or more minutes, an airplane would fly across the sky making a strange white line across the whole image, totally ruining the composition - and I would have to start all over again! Overhead is a major flight path towards some airport.
This HUGE boulder is sitting just above Tioga Pass at 8,500' Elevation overlooking Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley. It was stranded along with the great boulders around Olmsted Point during the Ice Age. -- Steve Harper


In memory of Steve Harper, Olmsted Point, Yosemite, 2016 -- by Joe Reifer

In memory of Steve Harper, Olmsted Point, Yosemite, 2016 -- by Joe Reifer

To honor the memory of night photography teacher Steve Harper, I drove to Yosemite for the full moon this month. As I headed up Highway 395 to 120, a huge glowing orb was rising above Mono Lake. I parked at Olmsted Point, and took in the view down the valley to Half Dome. Then I hiked up the hill to take some pictures.

I didn't end up shooting Steve's rock until late into the night. I imagined how his famous image from 1981 looked. I remembered that the camera was at a low angle with the rock on the horizon line and positioned between the trees. I crawled around in front of the rock with my camera, and it felt like a photographer's version of a Buddhist prostration.

I wanted to bring my own sense of composition to the photo, because that's what great teachers like Steve inspire you to do. After some experimenting, I ended up with the camera closer to eye height, and opened the shutter. I laid down on the ground for a while to look at the stars, and listened to Can's Ege Bamyasi.

An hour later, my late night meditation on Steve's rock completed, I drove back down the hill to Lee Vining to get some sleep.